Spring 2021: Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow
Scott Heath specializes in African American literature, black public culture, and speculative race theory. He is the author of Head Theory: How Hip Hop Works, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. His writing appears in PMLA, African American Review, Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters, and The New York Times. He guest edited Callaloo’s acclaimed special issue on hip-hop music and culture. Heath is at work on a second monograph, Automatic Black: Technologies of Race and Culture Design, and on an edited volume, Versus: Hyperlinking Black Writing and Sound. He is currently a visiting assistant professor in the Department of English at Loyola University New Orleans.
As a Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow, Heath is writing Automatic Black, a sequence of meditations regarding the intersection of newer technologies and certain social turns. The project introduces speculative race theory, indicating that recent advances in sound culture and screen culture inform the specifications and practice of blackness. The book details a circuitry that facilitates access to previously protected cultural sites, exploding them into revised racial publics.
Automatic Black is a series of interconnected essays—tight meditations on the representation of blackness and Americanness in contemporary discourse, with emphasis on interdisciplinarity, interactive artmaking, and smart public humanities. The project is chiefly concerned with the ways in which postmillennial technologies inform the practice of race—specifically blackness—in and outside the United States. In this work I introduce what I call speculative race theory, detailing the extent to which these technologies—particularly those related to sound and sounding—have facilitated the immediacy of access to what previously have been considered private cultural sites, exploding them into revised publics. This is a framework within which artists and critics, through the production of a variety of text—including but not limited to futurist writing, sampled sound, and digital design—have been anticipating these developments and investigating possible new renderings of blackness and of racecraft in general.